Absent ESEA Reauthorization, ED Moves Forward on Waiver Renewals

Although Congress made great strides this summer towards a comprehensive reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), policy analysts and educators alike are pessimistic about a final bill being passed before the end of 2014. And since most states will see their flexibility waivers expire at about that same time, the US Department of Education announced in August that those 34 states and the District of Columbia will be able to request renewals through 2016.

“America’s most sweeping education law—the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind—is outmoded and constrains state and district efforts for innovation and reform. The smartest way to fix that is through a reauthorized ESEA law, but Congress has not agreed on a responsible bill,” said US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Therefore the federal government has worked with states to develop waiver agreements that unleash local leaders’ energy for change and ensure equity, protect the most vulnerable students, and encourage standards that keep America competitive. The waiver renewal process announced today will support states in continuing positive change and ensuring all children receive a high-quality education—but I look forward to a day when we can announce a new ESEA law that supports every state.”

States seeking renewal of ESEA flexibility must submit an updated flexibility request describing how they will continue to meet the four principles outlined in the original waivers and demonstrate how the waivers have been effective in contributing to improved student achievement. ED is requesting states to submit a letter of intent to request a renewal of ESEA flexibility by December 15, 2013, and all requests must be submitted no later than February 21, 2014.

States must assure their continued commitment to implementing college and career-ready standards and describe how they are monitoring and supporting effective implementation of the standards. States are specifically required to provide all teachers and principals with “appropriate resources and support,” including professional development on the new standards. States must also reaffirm their commitment to develop and administer assessments aligned to the new standards no later than the 2014-2015 school year. They can do this by assuring their membership in one of the two Race to the Top assessment consortia or by administering their own statewide assessments.

States must provide a high-quality plan for implementation of interventions aligned with the turnaround principles in priority schools in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, including a description of how they will identify future cohorts of priority schools. They must also describe how they will increase the rigor of interventions and supports in schools that were previously identified as priority schools that are still low-performing.

States must demonstrate that they are “on track” for full implementation of their teacher and principal evaluation and support systems no later than the 2014-2015 school year. Their implementation plans must include information on when data from the systems will be collected, publicly reported and incorporated into ratings, when ratings will be given to teachers and principals, when ratings will be used to guide professional development, and when ratings will be used to make personnel decisions. States must also describe how they will ensure that poor and minority students are not taught at higher rates than other children by inexperienced, ineffective, or out-of-field

If a state’s request for flexibility is not renewed, schools will be required to resume complying with all of the requirements under No Child Left Behind, including making adequate yearly progress determinations based on assessments given during the 2013-2014 school year, identifying schools for improvement, and paying for supplemental educational services and transportation for public school choice as required under Title I.

Visit the Department’s Web site for more information.

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